Rugby union charges on in stamping out homophobia
The Sydney Convicts are urging other football codes to adopt anti-homophobia policies one year out from Bingham Cup. Reg Domingo reports.
Australian Rugby Union, the peak body governing rugby union in Australia, has announced it will develop a new inclusion policy aimed at eliminating homophobia in the sport, in response to a challenge by gay rugby club Sydney Convicts, set one year out from the Bingham Cup.
The Bingham Cup, known as the ‘World Cup of gay rugby union’, will be held in Sydney in August 2014.
To foster more discussion and facilitate action on homophobia in sport, the Convicts are challenging the four Australian professional football codes, as well as amateur clubs, to enact anti-homophobia policies.
Convicts founders and president of the 2014 Bingham Cup Organising Committee Andrew Purchas said it was now time for leaders to pave the way for change.
“All the major football codes and all sporting organisations in Australia have an opportunity to make a very meaningful change and create a sporting culture that is accepting and inclusive,” Purchas said.
“Strong leadership is needed so players feel accepted and free to come out of the closet, regardless of the level of play.”
Bill Pulver, CEO of Australian Rugby Union (ARU), said the development of a new inclusion policy will build on ARU’s commitment to stamp out all forms of discrimination in rugby in the country.
“This will be added to some of our existing policies that aims to ensure that Australian rugby continues to be an environment where everyone involved is treated with respect and dignity,” Pulver said.
“And every individual, whether they’re players, coaches or administrators, feel safe, welcome and included regardless of race, gender and sexuality.”
The challenge coincides with the official launch of Bingham Cup Sydney 2014. At NSW Parliament House last Wednesday, politicians, corporate leaders, LGBTI community representatives and leading sports figures gathered to mark the event’s one-year countdown.
Liberal Member for Wentworth Malcolm Turnbull said with the event being held in Sydney, it will send a clear statement about respect.
“Rugby is a tough enough game as it is,” Turnbull told the crowd. “There is no place in rugby or any other sport, or any other place in our society for homophobia or discrimination against people because of their sexual orientation.
“This is why the Bingham Cup is so important, because all of us have to make a stand.”
Liberal Member for Coogee Bruce Notley-Smith said the Bingham Cup will showcase Sydney’s “egalitarian values”.
“The tournament was founded on the philosophy that rugby is an all-inclusive sport regardless of sexuality,” Notley-Smith said. “That it is being held right here in Sydney is excellent news for New South Wales, which has been dedicated for many years to promoting diversity in many areas but especially in sport.”
The City of Sydney is providing $50,000 in financial and in-kind support to the event.
Lord Mayor Clover Moore said: “I hope that as well as generating economic benefit for the city, the Bingham Cup will also change attitudes and stereotypes on and off sporting fields”.
Independent Sydney MP Alex Greenwich praised the Sydney Convicts for securing the rights to host the Bingham Cup in Sydney.
“The Convicts are one of the best ambassadors for Sydney, for rugby and for Australia,” Greenwich said. “They have really sent a positive message of how welcoming, tolerant and inclusive Sydney is as a city and indeed New South Wales.
“As hope for legislative change continues, it’s so vitally important that we run events in Sydney to show how respectful we are of the gay and lesbian community and how welcoming we are of them.”
The tournament is named after Mark Bingham, a former University of California, Berkeley rugby star, who died in the September 11 attacks in the United States. Bingham was one of a group of passengers aboard United Airlines Flight 93, who bravely tried to stop the hijackers, resulting in the plane crash-landing in a field instead of reaching the intended target in Washington DC.
The Sydney Convicts are reigning world champions, having won the Bingham Cup in Manchester in 2012.
Up to 40 teams from around 17 countries are expected to arrive in Sydney on August 27-31, 2014.
[Image] Political, sporting and community leaders celebrate with the Sydney Convicts at a reception in NSW Parliament house, marking the one year countdown to Bingham Cup 2014. Photo: Mark Dickson
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